As Universal’s bid to buy the EMI record companies continues to go through the motions on both sides of the Atlantic, and following Beggars Group boss Martin Mills’ renewed criticism of the takeover bid in the Telegraph last weekend, the mega-major has scored the backing of two artist groups in the US.
According to Bloomberg, both the American Federation Of Musicians and SAG-AFTRA, which represents recording artists as well as actors and TV stars, have sent letters to competition regulators at America’s Federal Trade Commission giving their backing to Universal’s EMI bid, saying that the major has a sound record when it comes to complying with and respecting “collective bargaining agreements”, and that having Universal control the EMI labels and catalogues would be preferable to equity types stepping in, and probably selling off archive piecemeal.
In its letter of support, the AFM wrote that Universal’s “compliance with and respect for its collective bargaining agreements has been positive when compared to its peer companies”, and concluded that “sustaining the EMI legacy [via Universal ownership] would appear to benefit AMF recording musicians”.
Meanwhile SAG-AFTRA said it had been “wrenching to watch EMI wither” under the stewardship of its former owners, equity twonks Terra Firma, and that “for EMI to be left to further drift into oblivion, or for EMI to be acquired and sold off in pieces by capital investment speculators with no appreciation for, or commitment to, artists who fuel the recording [sector], would ill serve the industry”. The union’s letter added that Universal had a long history of supporting and investing in new talent and new genres.
The two unions urged the FTC to investigate the legitimacy of Universal’s pledge to reinvest in artist development at EMI, and to ensure adequate mechanisms were in place to deliver on that promise, but, said SAG-AFTRA: “Should the Commission be satisfied that there are adequate mechanisms to ensure compliance with those commitments, we respectfully request that it look favourably on Universal Music Group’s stewardship over EMI”.
Universal said it was “delighted” that the two unions had decided to give conditional approval to their EMI bid. The mega-major has, of course, faced quite a bit of opposition to its EMI takeover proposals in both the US and Europe, with critics saying that the deal will give the French-owned entertainment firm far too much dominance in the record industry, and in the digital music domain. Smaller rival Warner Music, the European indie label community and US lobbying body Public Knowledge are among those to have called on regulators to block the takeover.